Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hoboken Board of Education Meeting: Public Meeting Notice 12-13-2011

Hoboken Board of Education Meeting

12/13/2011 - 7:00pm

Board Meeting Room
1115 Clinton Street
Hoboken, NJ 07030

Picture: The Iowa State football team will practice at the Hoboken High Football Field in preparation for the annual Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on Dec 30, 2011.

December 13 2011 BOE Stated Session Agenda

Friday, December 9, 2011

Take this 1931 8th grade test (If you dare)

The following exam was given in 1931 by the West Virginia Department of Education to students seeking graduation from eighth grade. For many students, that was the last year of formal schooling. The exam was posted by Valerie Strauss (Washington Post- The Answer Sheet) who received it from John N. Beall of Wilmington, N.C., who received it from his father. The teacher who administered the test in a one-room school in Gilmer County, W.Va. Unfortunately, we do not know the results of the test- how students did. But, it is a wonderful example of what students were expected to know in the 8th grade in 1931 public schools.

Beall sent this to Ms. Strauss and wrote:
"When I have shown the exam to people, including teachers, I am invariably asked if the teacher 'taught to the test.' The answer is 'no.' The students were given standard textbooks from which they studied as students do today. Two or three days before the day of the exam the school received a package from the state with directions not to open it until the day of the exam. In 1931, during the Great Depression, with work so difficult to come by, it is doubtful that any teacher would have risked the loss of their position by revealing the contents before exam day. My father certainly would not.

"The scope and depth of the exam speaks for itself. What is important to understand is that the students came from families that were very challenged financially, especially during the depression years. They lived on small family farms, and, just to make ends meet, every member of the family had to work on the farm. Each child had chores to do before and after school, and, as there were very few automobiles in that area, they walked to and from school each day, some of them walking several miles each way. At night after chores there was homework and then to bed. These young people were part of the 'Great Generation' that fought and died for freedom. Those who survived the war went on to build this great nation.

1931 Test

Picture: Gloster Elementary School. Gloster, Mississippi. 8th Grade. January 1931

Monday, December 5, 2011

Invitation to be on National Research Council (NRC) Board on Science Education

This is an invitation I received recently to take part in a conversation and eventual meeting in Washington, DC with the National Research Council (NRC) Board on Science Education. The NRC is a division of the National Academies of Science. The issue at hand appears to be the integration of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in K-12 education. I imagine some of my research work, along with the work with the UTeach program and my work in the Hoboken School District all contributed to being asked to participate.

In classroom discussions this semester I have tried to talk to students and colleagues about the differences between university life and life in a school district. At the university, this type of invitation is often seen as a positive thing and something that brings honor to the institution. At the school level, things are much more complicated. While a majority of people in the district would feel similarly to the university-- the school district often has an ill informed and politically motivated minority view. In Hoboken, this was embodied by a political group known as "Kids First." People from this group would often criticize and fault me for being out of the district for any imaginable reason-- this was true whether I was giving a lecture at Harvard, a presentation at the National Science Foundation, or visiting another university. I bring this up simply to point out the vile and vitriol that exists sometimes when dealing with district level politics in K-12 schools. -Dr. Petrosino


Dear Dr. Petrosino,

I am writing regarding a new study the NRC Board on Science Education is undertaking in conjunction with the National Academy of Engineering to develop a strategic research agenda for determining the approaches and conditions most likely to lead to positive outcomes of integrated science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (iSTEM) education at the K-12 level. I am writing now to invite you to present to the committee at their second meeting on January 10 & 11 in Washington DC.

The focus of the session, which would be on the 10th, is a broad sense of the goals/objectives for integrated STEM. We are thinking this could be both the goals that people engaging in integrated STEM articulate themselves as well as the goals that integrated approaches might be especially effective in supporting. By goals/objectives we mean outcomes for students (achievement, learning, "21st century skills", interest, motivation, persistence in STEM, etc.) rather than the really broad overarching goals such as broadening participating or increasing workforce capacity. Following such an overview, we envision that the presentation would then provide a sketch of the evidence supporting the claims that iSTEM can support these goals/objectives. Or, in the absence of evidence, the kinds of evidence that would be needed. Our notion is the committee would get this broad cut to chew on at this meeting. Then we anticipate digging more deeply into the evidence base on individual goals/objectives at later meetings.

Of course, this is our starting point for thinking about the session. If you are interested and available, I'd like to talk to you in more detail about the session and get your input on what might be possible. Please let me know your availability for a call. If you are not available, I welcome your suggestions for others who might be good for presenting on these kinds of issues.

Thanks so much,


Board on Science Education

The National Research Council

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

University of Texas College of Education Now Ranked Number One in Nation Among Public Universities

U.S. News & World Report’s 2012 edition of America’s Best Graduate Schools has ranked The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education number one in the nation among public university graduate education programs and number two overall, tying with Harvard University. The College of Education is the first University of Texas at Austin graduate school, among those ranked yearly by U.S. News & World Report, to be named number one in the U.S.

The College of Education has steadily risen in the rankings for the past 13 years, this year leaping from tenth overall to second place and outranking elite private universities like Stanford and Columbia as well as public universities such as UCLA, UC-Berkeley and the University of Michigan. The College also ranked number one in research, with research expenditures in 2009-10 totaling almost $60 million.

"Under the leadership of Dean Manuel Justiz, the College of Education has thrived," said William Powers Jr., president of the university. "This ranking is confirmation of the university's commitment to educating the next generation of teachers and leaders in Texas.”

The College of Education is one of four colleges and schools (law, business and engineering, in addition to education) at the university that receives annual qualitative and quantitative graduate school ratings from U.S. News & World Report.

In addition to ranking colleges and schools, the magazine also provides specialty rankings of select programs. Ratings of these programs are based solely on nominations by education school deans and deans of graduate studies, and the nominating deans may choose up to 10 programs that they feel are exceptional in each specialty area.

This year in the administration/supervision category, the College of Education is ranked fourth overall and special education is ranked fifth overall.

"This is wonderful news for the College of Education," said Manuel J. Justiz, College of Education dean, "and I am so pleased that the hard work of our faculty, students and staff is getting recognition on such a large scale. I want to offer sincere thanks to all of the individuals in our college for their dedication and, of course, to the donors and alumni who so faithfully support our efforts."

The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education is home to the Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk, which received a $20 million research grant last year (the largest in the college’s history), and in the past year the college has added the Institute for Public School Initiatives, which is developing innovative tools for P-16 students and teachers to improve student college readiness and success.

The college has garnered national recognition for its leadership preparation programs in the Department of Educational Administration, as well as for the Learning Technology Center, Science and Mathematics Education Center, Vaughn Gross Center for Reading and Language Arts, H.J. Lutcher Stark Center for Physical Culture and Sports, Pearson Center on Applied Psychometric Research, and the Texas Child Study Center. In addition, state-of-the-art labs in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Education are helping the college’s top scientists conduct breakthrough research in the areas of fitness, nutrition, aging and the mind/body connection.

One of the most outstanding and nationally touted of the College of Education’s programs, UTeach was created through a partnership with the College of Natural Sciences that was forged in 1997. UTeach has proven to be an effective, innovative and efficient way to prepare highly qualified secondary science, math, technology and computer teachers. Undergraduates who are interested in teaching are eligible as well as college graduates who want to return to school for certification, new teachers who want to join a supportive community or seasoned teachers who would like to get an advanced degree. The University of Texas at Austin UTeach program has expanded beyond natural sciences to include liberal arts and engineering, with the engineering program recently receiving an unprecedented $12.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation in support of its work.

To date, UTeach has been replicated at 21 major universities in 11 states around the country. In addition, numerous corporate leaders and education leaders as well as Presidents Bush and Obama have praised UTeach as an extraordinarily successful, research-based approach to STEM education.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Hoboken Board of Education Meeting: Public Meeting Notice and Stated Agenda for 11-15-2011

Board Meeting
Time: 11/15/2011 - 7:00pm
This meeting was rescheduled. It was originally to be held on November 8th.

Board Meeting Room
1115 Clinton Street
Hoboken, NJ 07030

November 15 2011 BOE Stated Session Agenda

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

School superintendent: A tough job to fill- By David A. Kaplan, contributor @FortuneMagazine

FORTUNE -- The job typically pays about $250,000 a year. That doesn't include the pension and fabulous benefits. You usually get a long-term contract. There's no competition. Customers can't leave. So why do so few talented people want such a great gig?
Welcome to the world of superintendents for public school districts, which I'm learning about firsthand as a parent and taxpayer -- and discovering is an exercise in frustration. In most years about 1,500 districts nationwide will be hiring. I live in a prosperous suburb of Manhattan. But we, like many others, can't seem to find top talent.

That struggle represents a key challenge in American education. Schools can have dedicated teachers, thoughtful courses, and sound finances -- yet without an able leader no district is likely to excel. In my little village the last two superintendents were safe, traditional picks with long careers in school administration. Should we go that route or aim for someone with an unconventional background? Our school board has started the process by hiring a consultant. Ours is Hazard Young Attea & Associates, a national search firm near Chicago specializing in recruiting superintendents. Co-founder Bill Attea has been in the superintendency business for more than 50 years. From 1970 to 1994 he ran the schools in an affluent Chicago suburb. He was hired at 32. Neither his long tenure nor relative youth is prized anymore. "It's extremely difficult to find an appropriate person," he says. "The hiring environment has changed." The talent pool mostly consists of principals, assistant superintendents, and superintendents who've been shown the door. The last category is a function of boards and superintendents who no longer get along. State and federal requirements have made being a superintendent more complicated. Attea warns of analogizing members of school boards to corporate boards.

Whereas most corporate directors have expertise in business or government or academe, school board members have simply managed to get elected. Since school board members lack specialized knowledge about education, the argument goes, they ought to largely stay out of district governance. But because meddling is irresistible, superintendents and boards clash. And while superintendents may get, say, a 25% pay increase, it's not worth it if you were a principal and had to give up job tenure. The result is the Groucho effect: Anybody who actually applies to be superintendent isn't someone you want. We -- and 1,499 other districts that are desperately seeking leadership this year -- are hoping to do better than a Groucho.

This article is from the November 7, 2011 issue of Fortune.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Beyond Blackboards Uses Engineering Design and Robotics to Improve Math and Science Skills

The following is a recent write up of a grant I have at The University of Texas at Austin. It was recently published on the College's website. The PI on this grant is my wonderful colleague Rich Crawford from the College of Engineering and fellow co-PI is Chandra Muller from Sociology. Also, a great project staff including Christina White, Sheila Reynolds and Austin Tally, undergraduate assistants, fantastic teachers and incredibly helpful district administrators. Really a great synergy. I'm honored to be part of this wonderful project. 

Working with The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering, area school districts, and members of the education industry, the College of Education is helping implement Beyond Blackboards, a program that introduces middle school students to engineering design. Beyond Blackboards is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) is based on the highly successful Design Technology and Engineering for America’s Children (DTEACh) engineering outreach program. DTEACh and Beyond Blackboards emphasize hands-on experience with technology and the use of design challenges and robotics to create a context for math and science learning. 

 “Most students don’t have an entirely accurate perception of what it means to be an engineer and what engineering involves,” said Dr. Anthony Petrosino, associate professor in the College of Education’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction and co-principal investigator for the NSF grant. “Most adults don’t either, for that matter. One of the strengths of Beyond Blackboards is that it’s designed to educate not only the middle school students, but also teachers, school administrators and parents, or other caregivers, regarding the breadth of education and career opportunities available to someone who’s developed strong math and science skills. Most people are surprised – they possess a rather narrow definition of ‘engineer.’” 

 Realizing that not all students will, or should, become engineers, Beyond Blackboards focuses on using engineering-based challenges and projects to build students’ skills in analysis, problem-solving, negotiation, creativity, tolerance for ambiguity and understanding of systems thinking. Any or all of these skills can help students successfully pursue university degrees and lucrative career paths in any number of fields. The Ojeda Middle School "Engin Ears" robotics team participating in a Beyond Blackboards robotics competition. According to Dr. Anthony Petrosino, middle school is a critical decision-making time for students and Beyond Blackboards focuses on supporting and educating those individuals who are in a position to positively influence students when it comes to the development of math, science and technology skills. “Unfortunately, many K-12 engineering programs have been modeled after university engineering programs, which means that students don’t get introduced to the design element of engineering,” said Petrosino. “An art student, for example, who shows design promise would never know that there was a niche for her in engineering and most teachers would not know that this talented student could flourish in an engineering class.” 

 Historically underserved student populations are particularly at risk for falling through the cracks, with the dropout rate for Hispanics currently standing at around 40 percent. Many of these students may not perform well on tests but can possess skill sets that allow them to do well in engineering design. The confidence and expertise gained in engineering design can be a launching point for understanding core math and science subject material. To encourage more students to enter science, math, engineering and technology (STEM) fields, Beyond Blackboards is taking a four-pronged approach that includes research-based materials and training for students, teachers, school administrators and parents. Students are engaged in inquiry-based, open-ended, hands-on learning activities and introduced to a varied selection of STEM college options and careers during after-school programs, such as robotics clubs, as well as in intensive summer camps. 

 Teachers are trained to lead out-of-school robotics programs, receiving engineering professional development that increases their content knowledge and the level of comfort with which they employ technology in their classrooms. Teachers are educated in how to introduce students to engineering, using techniques such as drawing students’ attention to everyday examples of engineering topics, thereby placing abstract engineering concepts into familiar contexts. The teachers also learn how to generate interactive discussions about science and math concepts underlying engineering subject areas; set up exploratory labs for the students; present open-ended design problems in class; and help students become adept at communicating technical information, such as their engineering design solutions. Beyond Blackboards builds support from school counselors and administrators by offering them professional development that include education on STEM career opportunities and field trips to area businesses and organizations that offer a broad array of jobs in STEM fields. 

The education professionals also can avail themselves of presentations, discussions and hands-on activities that explain and illustrate students’ learning experiences. Teachers outside math and science – career instructors and art teachers, for example – have access to this training as well. And finally, the program also reaches out to parents and caregivers, targeting historically under-represented groups in order to build understanding about the options open to students who have math and science skills. Among other things, Beyond Blackboards shares STEM college and career awareness activities with parents of children who are in the robotics after-school clubs or summer camps. 

 At The University of Texas at Austin, Beyond Blackboards engages engineering and UTeach students to serve as mentors for middle school students in the program. “Support from multiple sources increases the likelihood of success,” said Petrosino. “Corporate partners like DTEACh are very involved as well as Skillpoint Alliance, a Central Texas education and workforce agency, and members of communities around the participating schools. “Research points to the fact that middle school is a critical decision-making time for students and Beyond Blackboards focuses on those individuals who are in a position to positively influence students. Really focusing on historically underserved groups, we’re tapping into a large, promising future workforce – this is a great opportunity to increase the number of individuals who have STEM skills.” 

 —Kay Randall, Office of the Vice President for Public Affairs, 512-232-3910  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"Trouble in the Schools"- October 9, 2011 Letter to the Editor in the Hoboken Reporter

The following is a letter to the editor which was printed in the October 9, 2011 edition of the Hoboken Reporter under the title of "Trouble in the Schools" (note: titles of letters are given by the newspaper and not the author of the letter) . The letter is by Ms. Theresa Burns, a former member of the Hoboken Board of Education, an educator in her own right, and a parent who sent children through the Hoboken Public Schools. For those readers in my class, I would like you to read the original article and Ms. Burns response and come to class ready to discuss the matter from the perspective of educational policy and administration. All others should feel free to post comments to this article below. -Dr. Petrosino

Dear Editor:

The Sept 18, 2011 article entitled
"Schools must meet state test score requirements" focused in part on the recent Quality Single Accountability Continuum (QSAC) evaluation of the Hoboken School district, specifically in the area of Instruction and Program. The article stated that the Hoboken District is "only 11 percentage points away from becoming a high performing district." However, the current 69 percent QSAC score in Instruction and Program represents an 18 percent point drop since the previous QSAC evaluation; a fact not stated in the article. Additionally, when this drop in Instruction and Program is considered in light of the fact that as of August 2011 90 percent of our public school children attend a public school that has failed to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) - a troubling picture of the Kids First leadership at the Hoboken Board of Education over the past few years emerges. What has gone largely unreported is the current academic decline the district now finds itself in since the Kids First majority took control of the Board of Education. In my opinion, this decline has been fueled by inaction, bad decisions, a string of retired interims with no commitment to the community, and by being overly concerned about finances, politics, and personnel appointments rather than focusing on curriculum, instruction, and test scores. I believe the QSAC data supports this opinion clearly and objectively. To be very clear — The 18 percentage point drop in the Instruction and Program is attributable to a number of decisions by the Carter-Rusak-Kids First leadership team, not the current superintendent. I want to wish the best of luck to Superintendent Toback for the 2011-2012 school year and in getting the Instruction and Program scores as well as AYP numbers to pre Carter-Rusak-Kids First levels and beyond.

Yours truly,

Theresa Burns

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

October 11, 2011 Hoboken Board of Education Meeting Agenda

The following is the slated agenda for the October 11, 2011 meeting of the Hoboken Board of Education. The meeting will take place at 7PM on Tuesday October 11 at the Board Meeting Room located at 1115 Clinton Street. Stated Session October 11 2011 BOE Public Meeting

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Secrets of a Principal Who Makes Things Work By MICHAEL WINERIP

The following article by NY Times Educational writer Michael Winerip presents an interesting, although not research based, idea of what makes a good school principal. It presents and interesting case of what an informed person well versed in education thinks is important for good educational leadership. I will supplement this post with a more research based post on what research says makes a good principal in a few days. -Dr. Petrosino. 
You can access the full article by clicking HERE
One columnist’s idea of a good principal:
A good principal has been a teacher.
While Ivy Leaguers in their 20s can now become principals, Jacqui Getz, 51, the new principal of Public School 126, a high-poverty school in Chinatown, came up the old way. This is her third principal position, but before that, she was a teacher for nine years and an assistant principal for four. It’s hard for principals to win over teachers if they haven’t been one.
“You’re the principal,” Ms. Getz said, “but you have to know how a teacher feels and how a teacher thinks.”
A good principal feels at home in a cafeteria filled with 800 children eating rubbery scrambled eggs for breakfast.
At Table 510, Ms. Getz discussed “Maniac McGee” with Beckie Zheng; at Table 500, Hula-Hoops with Annika Dalland. At Table 220, Ms. Getz spotted a second grader, eyes closed, resting his head on his arms, and brought him a box of Raisin Bran with a carton of milk. “You need to eat,” she whispered.
A good principal has her own style.
“He wants to meet you,” said a third-grade girl, who was holding her little brother’s hand. From where the children stood, Ms. Getz must have looked like the Eiffel Tower. She wears heels because she believes tall principals have an edge. As she walks, her bracelets clink, her heels click. Before they see her, students know Ms. Getz is coming around the corner.
A good principal protects her teachers from the nonsense.
“I want my people to feel I have their backs,” she said.
Last year, the city’s Education Department put into effect its 32-variable equation that looks like a chemical configuration for rocket fuel but is actually a formula concocted to rate teachers based on student test scores.
It was degrading for teachers, and Ms. Getz has signaled she is not a believer. “How can this formula tell me about the teacher in front of me?” she said. Under state regulations, test scores can count for up to 40 percent of a teacher’s evaluation. “These tests are so unreliable; I wouldn’t count them 10 percent, 8 percent, 1 percent,” she said. “You don’t want teachers feeling belittled; you want them to keep their dignity so they can be at their best.”
A good principal sets her own high standards.
Many are the ways Ms. Getz evaluates teachers. She regularly visits classrooms. She looks at the written materials they send to families and the administration. She watches them during group planning sessions with other teachers. She studies their lesson plans and notices how they maintain their rooms, when they show up for meetings and whether they take notes. She looks to see how they organize themselves for the day and the records they keep. She listens to parents.
Ms. Getz wants to know whether teachers continually challenge themselves, have the power of reflection, make intellectual connections and are curious about the art of teaching. Some of what she’s hunting for, she can describe only vaguely: “There’s something at the core of a good teacher that kids get, and makes them feel safe and relaxed.”
A good principal works with union leaders to carry out her educational agenda, and if she can’t, takes them on.
At four of the five schools where Ms. Getz has been a supervisor, relations have been good. At the other, union members had taken over school advisory committees, undercutting her. She worked around them until they quit in frustration.
Still, she believes teachers need unions, saying, “Some schools are very hard on teachers.” Said Barry Greenberg, the P.S. 126 chapter leader, “We’re glad she’s here.”
A good principal knows teachers are only part of what make a school run.
Her first week on the job, Ms. Getz was invited by Aixa Torres, president of the tenants’ association of the 2,000-unit housing project across the street, to come to one of its meetings. “The same day, she came,” Ms. Torres said. “She’s on the mark.”
Ms. Getz brings in Diet Cokes for Margaret Javor, the longtime school secretary, but that’s not what won her over. “I like that she compliments my work ethic,” Ms. Javor said.
A good principal takes money out of her pocket for the school.
Against all odds, Ms. Getz was determined to make the principal’s office an inviting place for children. She bought bookcases from Ikea and stacked them with hundreds of books from her home that children and teachers could borrow.
Recently, Ms. Getz interrupted a meeting she was having with department managers, and in marched three little girls looking for books. The girls got the books, and the managers got the point.
A good principal loves and trusts the public schools where she works.
Ms. Getz’s husband is also a principal, at East Side Middle School. Her mother is still teaching at the Center School, and all three of her children have attended New York City public schools.
A good principal worries in private, ignores the surreal and finds a way to get things done.
The department judges them by student test scores and school progress report grades. Many nights, Ms. Getz wakes at 3 a.m. full of worries. “And then I say, I am not going to let them do this to me,” she said.
A few weeks before, the Education Department had sent principals a packet explaining the progress report grading system. It was titled, “New Templates Clarify Scoring and Metrics.” An example of template clarification: “The percent of range is the share of the comparison range covered by the school’s result, used to determine the share of points earned.”
Because of budget cuts, P.S. 126’s sixth grades have gone to 30 students per class from 20 last year, but Ms. Getz does not dwell on it. “I think of how to do,” she said, “with what I have.”
A good principal has a To Do list several feet long.
Excerpts from Ms. Getz’s list from last weekend: Start to plan Performance Assessment Tasks. Rough draft of Principal Performance Review. Plan out first-grade social studies School Study. Review fifth-grade first unit of social studies. Read and respond to GOAL sheets of all staff. Make new templates for Danielson observations .Write weekly family letter. Review professional text math book. Analyze Progress Report. Do feedback Post-its for teachers from informal visits this week.
A good principal leads by example.
School ended at 2:50 that day, but at 5, when Sabrina Bassett, a special-education teacher, came into the office with a question about a mapping lesson, Ms. Getz was there. And at 5:30, when Ian Lambert, a fourth-grade teacher, poked his head in to discuss a spelling curriculum he was putting together, Ms. Getz was still there.

Picture: Street hockey at Wallace School, Hoboken circa 1977

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hoboken Board of Education- September 13, 2011 Agenda

The next meeting of the Hoboken Board of Education will occur on 09/13/2011 - 7:00pm at the Board Meeting Room located at 1115 Clinton Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030. Click HERE for the official Public Notice of the meeting.

Stated Session September 13 2011 BOE Agenda

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why won’t Michelle Rhee talk to USA Today?- By MICHAEL WINERIP NY TIMES

Ms. Rhee, the chancellor of the Washington public schools from 2007 to 2010, is the national symbol of the data-driven, take-no-prisoners education reform movement.

It’s hard to find a media outlet, big or small, that she hasn’t talked to. She’s been interviewed by Katie Couric, Tom Brokaw and Oprah Winfrey. She’s been featured on a Time magazine cover holding a broom (to sweep away bad teachers). She was one of the stars of the documentary “Waiting for Superman.”

These days, as director of an advocacy group she founded, StudentsFirst, she crisscrosses the country pushing her education politics: she’s for vouchers and charter schools, against tenure, for teachers, but against their unions.

Always, she preens for the cameras. Early in her chancellorship, she was trailed for a story by the education correspondent of “PBS NewsHour,” John Merrow.

At one point, Ms. Rhee asked if his crew wanted to watch her fire a principal. “We were totally stunned,” Mr. Merrow said.

She let them set up the camera behind the principal and videotape the entire firing. “The principal seemed dazed,” said Mr. Merrow. “I’ve been reporting 35 years and never seen anything like it.”

And yet, as voracious as she is for the media spotlight, Ms. Rhee will not talk to USA Today.

At the end of March, three of the paper’s reporters — Marisol Bello, Jack Gillum and Greg Toppo — broke a story about the high rate of erasures and suspiciously high test-score gains at 41 Washington schools while Ms. Rhee was chancellor.

At some schools, they found the odds that so many answers had been changed from wrong to right randomly were 1 in 100 billion. In a fourth-grade class at Stanton Elementary, 97 percent of the erasures were from wrong to right. Districtwide, the average number of erasures for seventh graders was fewer than one per child, but for a seventh-grade class at Noyes Elementary, it was 12.7 per student. At Noyes Elementary in 2008, 84 percent of fourth graders were proficient in math, up from 22 percent in 2007.

Ms. Rhee’s reputation has rested on her schools’ test scores. Suddenly, a USA Today headline was asking, “were the gains real?” In this era of high-pressure testing, Washington has become another in a growing list of cheating scandals that has included Atlanta, Indiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas.

It took the USA Today reporters a year to finish their three-part series. So many people were afraid to speak that Ms. Bello had to interview dozens to find one willing to be quoted. She knocked on teachers’ doors at 9:30 at night and hunted parents at PTA meetings. She met people in coffee shops where they would not be recognized, and never called or e-mailed sources at their schools.

Hari Sevugan, a spokesman for Ms. Rhee, said the reporters were “provided unprecedented time and access to report out their story,” including many meetings with senior staff members and the chief of data accountability. By last fall, Mr. Sevugan said, district officials’ patience was wearing thin. The deputy press secretary, Satiya Simmons, complained in an e-mail to a colleague, “Jack Gillum isn’t going away quietly, Uggh.”

“Just stop answering his e-mails,” advised Anita Dunn, a consultant who had been the communications director for President Obama.

The reporters made a dozen attempts to interview Ms. Rhee, directly and through her public relations representatives. Ms. Bello called Ms. Rhee’s cellphone daily, and finally got her on a Sunday.

“She said she wasn’t going to talk with us,” Ms. Bello recalled. “Her understanding was we were writing about” district schools “and she is no longer chancellor.”

On March 29, the day after the story came out, Ms. Rhee appeared on the PBS program “Tavis Smiley” and attacked USA Today.

“Are you suggesting this story is much ado about nothing, that this is lacking integrity, this story in USA Today?” Mr. Smiley asked.

“Absolutely,” Ms. Rhee said. “It absolutely lacks credibility.”

Mr. Smiley asked if she was concerned that she had put too much pressure on teachers and principals to raise scores. “We want educators to feel that pressure,” she answered.

Ms. Rhee emphasized that the district had hired a top security company, Caveon, to investigate in 2009, and was given a clean bill of health. The district released a statement from John Fremer, Caveon’s owner, saying, “The company did not find evidence of cheating at any of the schools.”

However, in subsequent interviews with USA Today and this reporter, Mr. Fremer made it clear that the scope of his inquiry was limited, and that the district had not requested that he do more. Indeed, Caveon’s report, posted on USA Today’s Web site, was full of sentences like, “Redacted was interviewed at redacted.”

Teachers described security as “excellent” and “very vigilant,” and investigators, for the most part, took their comments at face value.

It did not take Ms. Rhee long to realize she had miscalculated. Three days later, she told Bloomberg Radio she was “100 percent supportive” of a broader inquiry.

Still, she would not talk to USA Today. Mr. Sevugan gave no explanation, but pointed out that she had spoken with several other news outlets.

The reporters did not give up. On April 26, Emily Lenzner, a spokeswoman, wrote Mr. Gillum, “Michelle is willing to do an interview, but we’d like to do this in person.” She asked if they could hold their story, and arranged for a meeting on May 3 at the StudentsFirst office in Washington.

On May 2, another Rhee spokeswoman e-mailed to say the reporters were too interested in cheating and not enough in StudentsFirst. She said they could submit a list of questions.

There were 21 questions; Ms. Rhee did not answer 10 of the 11 about cheating.

Mr. Gillum, who recently took a job at The Associated Press, said he was surprised by how unresponsive Ms. Rhee has been. “She talks about how important data is, and our story is data driven,” he said.

So that people could make their own judgments, Linda Mathews, the project editor, posted the relevant public documents on the USA Today Web site.

Shortly after the follow-up story appeared, the district’s inspector general began what was supposed to be an inquiry, but in July The Washington Post reported that just one investigator had been assigned. “Basically it was one guy in a room who made 10 phone calls,” Mr. Toppo said.

Officials with the federal Department of Education have indicated that they are assisting with the investigation.

In Washington, two investigators spent five days at eight schools. In Atlanta, the state deployed 60 investigators who worked for 10 months at 56 schools. They produced a report that named all 178 people found cheating, including 82 who confessed. There was not a single case of “redacted and redacted doctoring redacted grade answer sheets at redacted.”

People in Atlanta could go to prison. Last week, a grand jury issued subpoenas seeking the names of school employees who had received bonuses for test scores. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that there were subpoenas for “signed copies” of “any and all oaths of office” taken by Beverly Hall, the former superintendent.

The three reporters still hope to interview Ms. Rhee. “Absolutely,” said Mr. Toppo.

Which brings things full circle: Why won’t Ms. Rhee talk to USA Today?

E-mail: oneducation@nytimes.com

Picture: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Hoboken Board of Education Meeting: Public Meeting Notice and Stated Agenda for 8-16-2011

The Hoboken Board of Education will meet on Tuesday, August 16, 2011 at the Hoboken Board of Education Office located at 1115 Clinton Street at 7pm.

The notice and stated agenda for the meeting is posted below.

Public Meeting Notice 8-16-2011

Stated Session August 16 2011 BOE Agenda.

Picture: 14th Street viaduct gets ready for major construction beginning August, 2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Report Offers New Framework to Guide K-12 Science Education, Calls for Shift in the Way Science Is Taught in U.S

News from the National Academies

Date: July 19, 2011


Report Offers New Framework to Guide K-12 Science Education, Calls for Shift in the Way Science Is Taught in U.S.

WASHINGTON – A report released today by the National Research Council presents a new framework for K-12 science education that identifies the key scientific ideas and practices all students should learn by the end of high school. The framework will serve as the foundation for new K-12 science education standards, to replace those issued more than a decade ago. The National Research Council is the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering; all three are independent, nongovernmental organizations.

The committee that wrote the report sees the need for significant improvements in how science is taught in the U.S. The new framework is designed to help students gradually deepen their knowledge of core ideas in four disciplinary areas over multiple years of school, rather than acquire shallow knowledge of many topics. And it strongly emphasizes the practices of science – helping students learn to plan and carry out investigations, for example, and to engage in argumentation from evidence.

The overarching goal of the framework, the committee said, is to ensure that by the end of 12th grade, all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science, the capacity to discuss and think critically about science-related issues, and the skills to pursue careers in science or engineering if they want to do so -- outcomes that existing educational approaches are ill-equipped to achieve.

“Currently, science education in the U.S. lacks a common vision of what students should know and be able to do by the end of high school, curricula too often emphasize breadth over depth, and students are rarely given the opportunity to experience how science is actually done,” said Helen Quinn, committee chair and professor emerita of physics at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Stanford, Calif. “The new framework is designed to address and overcome these weaknesses. It builds on what is known to work best in science education, based on research and classroom experience both in the U.S.and around the world. It provides a blueprint that will guide improvements in science education over many years."

The framework was developed by an 18-member committee that included experts in education and scientists from many disciplines. The committee publicly released a draft in summer 2010 to obtain and incorporate feedback from the broader community of scientists, science educators, educational policymakers, and education researchers.

The framework is the first step in the development of new K-12 science education standards. The framework lays out the broad ideas and practices students should learn and will serve as the basis for specific standards, which will be developed in a process led by a group of states and coordinated by the nonprofit educational organization Achieve Inc. When the standards are finished, states may voluntarily adopt them to guide science education in their public schools.

In addition to serving as the foundation for the development of new standards, the framework can be used by others who work in K-12 science education, such as curriculum and assessment developers, those who train teachers and create professional development materials, and state and district science supervisors.

Science as Both Ideas and Practices

The framework specifies core ideas in four disciplinary areas -- life sciences; physical sciences; earth and space sciences; and engineering, technology and the applications of science -- that all students should understand by the time they finish high school. For example, among the core ideas in the physical sciences are “matter and its interactions” and “energy.” Students’ knowledge of these ideas should deepen over time, and the framework specifies aspects of each idea that students should know by the end of grades two, five, eight, and 12.

The framework also identifies seven crosscutting concepts that have explanatory value across much of science and engineering, such as “cause and effect” and “stability and change.” These concepts should be taught in the context of core ideas from the disciplines of science, the report says, but teachers should use a common language for these concepts across disciplines, so that students understand the same concept is relevant in many fields. These concepts should become familiar touchstones as students progress from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Just as important are scientific and engineering practices, which have been given too little emphasis in K-12 education, the committee said. The framework specifies eight key practices that students should learn, such as asking questions and defining problems, analyzing and interpreting data, and constructing explanations and designing solutions. These practices should be integrated with study of the disciplinary core ideas and applied throughout students’ K-12 education.

These three dimensions must be used together for students to understand how science works, the committee stressed. For example, students should use the practices -- such as conducting investigations and then analyzing and interpreting the data -- to deepen their knowledge of the core ideas.

Putting the Framework to Use

The report offers guidance to those who will use the framework to develop new science education standards. The standards should set rigorous learning goals that represent a common expectation for all students. They also should be limited in number to reflect the framework’s focus on a small set of core ideas and practices, and should include guidance about what does and does not need to be taught.

Developing new standards is a key step in making K-12 science education more coherent and effective, but it is far from the only one, the committee said. Curricula will need to incorporate the framework’s ideas and practices, and teacher preparation and professional development programs should provide ways for teachers to deepen their own conceptual understanding of the practices and ideas of science. Assessments will need to be linked to the shared goals outlined by the framework and related standards. And time, space, and resources for science learning need to be made available. “For all students to have the opportunity to learn the ideas and practices we’ve described, many other players and parts of the system will need to change, some in fundamental ways,” said Quinn.

The study was sponsored by Carnegie Corporation of New York. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter. The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. For more information, visit http://national-academies.org. A committee roster follows


Sara Frueh, Media Relations Officer

Shaquanna Shields, Media Relations Assistant

Office of News and Public Information

202-334-2138; e-mail news@nas.edu

Pre-publication copies of A Framework for K-12 Science Education are available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu.


Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education

Committee on a Conceptual Framework for New Science Education Standards

Helen Quinn (chair)1
Professor Emerita of Physics
SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
Menlo Park, Calif.

Wyatt W. Anderson1
Professor and Dean Emeritus
Department of Genetics
University of Georgia

Tanya M. Atwater1
Professor Emeritus
Department of Earth Science
University of California
Santa Barbara

Philip Bell
Associate Professor

Life Center, and
Science and Mathematics Learning Institute
University of Washington

Thomas B. Corcoran

Consortium for Policy Research
and Education
Teachers College
Columbia University
New York City

Rodolfo Dirzo1
Bing Professor in Ecology
Department of Biology
Stanford University
Stanford, Calif.

Phillip A. Griffiths1
Director Emeritus and Professor of Mathematics
Institute for Advanced Study
Princeton, N.J.

Dudley R. Herschbach1

Emeritus Professor of Science

Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology

Harvard University, and


Department of Physics

Texas A&M University

College Station

Linda P.B. Katehi2
University of California

John C. Mather1
Senior Astrophysicist
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, Md.

Brett D. Moulding
Utah Partnership for Effective Science Teaching and Learning
North Ogden

Jonathan Osborne
Shriram Family Professor of Science Education
Graduate School of Education
Stanford University
Stanford, Calif.

James W. Pellegrino
Professor of Cognitive Psychology and Education
University of Illinois

Stephen L. Pruitt (until June 2010)
Chief of Staff
Office of the State Superintendent of Schools
Georgia Department of Education

Brian Reiser
Professor of Learning Sciences
School of Education and Social Policy
Northwestern University
Evanston, Ill.

Rebecca R. Richards-Kortum2
Stanley C. Moore Professor of Bioengineering
Rice University

Walter G. Secada
Professor and Chair
Department of Teaching, and
Senior Associate Dean

School of Education
University of Miami

Deborah C. Smith
Assistant Professor of Science Education
Department of Curriculum and Instruction
Pennsylvania State University
State College


Heidi Schweingruber

Co-Study Director

Tom Keller

Co-Study Director

1 Member, National Academy of Sciences

2 Member, National Academy of Engineering